The Mog Log: Final Fantasy XIV's superfluous damage Ninja

It's probably right, but it's still kind of wrong.

If you don't know whether or not I'm excited about the inclusion of Final Fantasy XIV's newest class, I don't know what to tell you. I've been playing a character who's been an in-character Ninja for the duration of the game's life, so obviously I'm happy to finally have it available to me. I personally would be happiest if it were a tank, since I do so enjoy tanking in the game, but I have plenty of people to run stuff with anyway. I'm not worried about queue times anyhow.

At the same time, though... we know there's a shortage of tanks in the game right now. This isn't a mystery or a secret. Healers are more common but still hardly as ubiquitous as Bards and Dragoons. So is the inclusion of another DPS class really a wise decision? With the precedent established, would Final Fantasy XIV have been better off adding a more party-oriented option into the mix?

And I have to WAIT for this.

To answer that question, of course, we have to also take a look at Final Fantasy XI because that's kind of the case for Ninja tanking, and it's also an outlier.

When Final Fantasy XI launched its first expansion, it included three new classes. All three were meant to do things a little differently than they were done before. In theory, Dragoons could provide backup in a variety of different roles with their wyvern breaths. There was also a new class that seemed to be meant for tanking with a bit more of an emphasis on dodging rather than soaking blows. That class was Samurai.

Probably. It's hard to find conclusive statements, especially since providing information to English-speaking fans of FFXI was never really a high priority for the development team, but a look at Samurai supports the idea that it was meant to be the tanky option. It wears heavier armor, has a higher Agility stat, and has good Parrying and Evasion skill options. In short, it's a class that could be DPS or tank with reasonable ability. Third Eye was clearly meant as a definite buffer against big attacks.

The community embraced a different avoidance tank, however. After all, a Ninja could use Utsusemi to dodge perfectly for a while. Sure, it took a lot of money to buy the tools required to keep tanking, and if you got hit when your shadows were down, it would hurt a lot, but it was essentially a big hole for players to just drive right through. Ninjas became tanks, despite the fact that Ninja wasn't built to be a tanking job until the designers noticed that was how players were using the job and just ran with it.

It's a unique state of affairs. In every other game with Ninjas, the class is fragile as heck. This is true in FFXI, too, but it's mitigated by the use of Utsusemi.

FFXIV doesn't have an evasion tank in the game at the moment. Paladins are traditional endurance tanks, reducing every blow to a minor amount of damage. Warriors, by contrast, are soak tanks, with less damage mitigation but more overall health. So Ninja certainly could have fit in as a tank focused around dodging things. Except, of course, for the one big hole there: FFXIV doesn't really make dodging into a big thing.

Gearing for evasion at this point in the game's life cycle isn't possible. You can toss Featherfoot on your bar if you're a Warrior, but you still can't build yourself up to dodge most of the attacks thrown at you. The best you can do is stacking Parry, and even that doesn't take care of everything. It's meant as a damage cut rather than outright constant damage avoidance.

In some ways, this is a good thing. Evasion is a tricky stat because while statistically a 50% Evade rate is the same as a 50% damage reduction, it doesn't always work out that way, especially given the trades you need in order to get there. Would you like to watch your tank die after a physical hit and a Mountain Buster in Titan EX before you can even cast a heal?

Again, let's remember that the biggest thing leading to the rise of Utsusemi tanking was the fact that FFXI had no bosses meant to counter it. It was only later that you'd get bosses who could cut through shadows in seconds, at which point Ninjas became much less desirable as tanks, but that's another discussion.

All I ever wanted / All I ever needed / Is here in my arms

Of course, that doesn't actually answer the question of whether we need another melee DPS in the game. Answering that means looking at what the actual class distribution currently is and how much this new one adds to the mix aside from just doing damage.

It would, in fact, be fair to say that we need another melee damage dealer. At this point, we have two melee damage jobs (Dragoon and Monk), two tanks (Warrior and Paladin), two healers (Scholar and White Mage), and three ranged damage jobs (Summoner, Bard, and Black Mage). This is why I and several others were hoping and expecting that the still-unrevealed gun class would be either a tank or a healer simply because that's what we're really lacking right now. But it doesn't mean that melee DPS isn't lacking when you consider that the (slight) majority of DPS options right now are ranged.

Ranged damage, as it stands, is all tuned a little bit lower on straight DPS compared to melee damage; what makes it desirable is that each ranged class brings something extra to the table. Black Mages are the indisputable masters of AoE damage, very useful for clearing out packs of enemies. Summoners bring in a DoT-heavy playstyle, yes, but they can spread those effects to others and have some extra debuffs to cripple opponents. Bards can provide party-boosting effects.

Melee, by contrast, is a bit more homogenized. Monks and Dragoons have different skillsets, but they're largely similar in their playstyles: apply debuffs, work off your damage combos, pop cooldowns as they come up. Their difference comes down largely to methodology, where Monk hits faster for less damage and Dragoon is slower for more per hit. They roughly balance out at the end of the day, and yes, they have a couple of unique tricks (Dragoon gets a slight AoE edge thanks to Dragonfire Dive, for example), but they're much closer than, say, Black Mages and Summoners.

But that doesn't mean that all melee has to be like that. There's room for another high-damage class with a different bent. We know that the focus of Ninja will be less on movement and position a la the Monk and more about their effects, and that black field makes me wonder whether Ninja isn't meant as the party support melee class -- dropping damage effects, inflicting debuffs to power up magical damage or physical damage, and so forth. A melee class, but with a different approach.

Ultimately, no, it's probably not the best choice for an additional class in a game that's hurting for tanks and healers. But it could bring a lot to the table despite that fact, and frankly we need more class options in the game as it stands. I'd have preferred Ninja tanking, but I can live with the loss.

Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments below or via mail to Next time, it'll be time for a patch 2.3 primer on the eve of its launch.

Chocobo Dash!

It's only been a week since the last column, so there's only one episode. Number 10 covers our reactions to the many convention goings-on that we had only reacted to in live format before. Meanwhile, in the ongoing Final Fantasy Project, I continued my antics in Final Fantasy III by killing a rat with magic. (It made sense in context.)

From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every other Monday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.